Tuesday, 30 April 2013

New podcast by Stitched Together

Just wanted to link you quickly to a new podcast by Chrissie from Stitched Together - she's going to be putting them here and you can also search on iTunes (I don't know how to link to that, you just go to iTunes and searched for Stitched Together).

I'm listening to it now and it's really interesting and worth a listen - go Chrissie and the Stitched Together Podcast! I look forward to future episodes x

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Suckerpunched by nostalgia

Partner and I were watching one of the obscure channels at about midnight the other night when an advert came on which entirely overwhelmed me with memories (look. You get to an age...). It was for David Nieper, which is a factory in Derbyshire where I worked in customer services for about a year after I finished my degree and was saving up to come to Cambridge.
I believe that is the first time David Nieper catalogues have ever been arranged near a pole. A first there for David Nieper
I imagine this is the same for everyone but, every job I have had, we have spent all the time laughing. I mean, I do do some work as well, but, I always end up in places where we laugh a lot, for some reason (and eat a lot as well). But, David Nieper was the best. It was great. I think there is a certain type of humour when you put a lot of northern women together in a factory and I still miss it. It was probably the most fun place I worked. I thought it was merely preserved in the aspic of my memory but no! They are still going! I had to order a catalogue! And they have literally not changed one bit in the fifteen years since I left. They are a small piece of perfection in a changing retail world.
Just imagine this woman in 30 years' time with a labrador. YOU SEE
All the models in the catalogue look as if they have stepped straight out of the wives' section of an Aspiring Tory Candidate Selection Panel. Some of them look a bit racier than others but still. When I worked there we supplied Mrs Thatcher with her full length lace slips, I believe she favoured the 1826. I am sorry to see that the 1826 appears to have been discontinued but you can still get the 1726 which is a perfectly acceptable substitute. We also provided Catherine Cookson with her nighties, indeed I like to think we contributed to making giant swathes of Middle England look less alluring in bed. We probably kept down the birth rate in the Home Counties.
Me on my last day. My desk is the one on the right nearest to the camera. I did a version of that squat in Hot Yoga this morning
I loved working in customer services. We had a large following of transvestites because we did larger sizes and were able to customise things, and our favourite, Mr Transvestite, once sent us a photograph of himself in a wedding dress in the back garden of a small pebbledashed house (much like mine in fact! House that is). All the women in the factory worked on piecework, which was kind of a good idea, but meant they churned out the things with just a few seams much more quickly than more complicated things, as the factory manager was a young man with no control. So, if you wanted a velour gown, you had no problems, whereas if you wanted french knickers - well, good luck to you. I used to find the velour gowns (useful for entertaining at home or on a cruise! Bracelet-length sleeves that won't tangle with your breakfast tray!) so amusing that when I left they made me a mini one and I still have it in a little gift box.
I always get great presents when I leave jobs. Sometimes I worry they're pleased to see me go...
They employed me solely because I was a size 12 (they already had an 8, 10, 14, 16, 18 and 20) and would be useful for trying on the sample sizes and impromptu shoulder-to-nipple measuring sessions. If you've never modelled sample underwear in front of a panel of women hyped up on cava and ready to heckle, then you've not lived. The graphic designer used to spend hours airbrushing nipples out of the catalogue on the specific orders of Mr Nieper, and all our customers had titles and were mad. It was marvellous. We spent all our time apologising for how slow the french knickers were being and eating pecan slices from the bakery down the road. I sat behind a nice woman who used to save up all her weightwatchers points so she could get slaughtered on lager at the weekend and who poked me periodically with a ruler, and who once got drunk and tearfully gave me the following, excellent advice: 'never have two men in love with you at the same time, Susie. It's not fun. It's awful'. (No danger yet, Mandy).
I aspire to be the kind of woman who would know what to do with a full slip
Sometimes things went wrong. There was the man who wanted to order, on his wife's account, french knickers (can you see where this is going??) to be sent to his recently widowed sister-in-law secretly, with a card which said, from an anonymous admirer, I mean, can you imagine. Well, the french knickers were delayed (plenty of velour gowns though), and somehow, in error, we sent the wife a letter (we are sorry the knickers you ordered to be sent to xx at xx address with the following gift card won't be available for another month) and that dirty rat was exposed. There was the woman who ordered a black patterned two-piece for her mother's birthday party: the fabric ran out: it was horribly delayed: she was very angry and said, cancel the order!!!. However, she called us back a few weeks later and said on reflection she would like to keep it on order because (I kid you not) although it had missed her mother's birthday, her mother was now looking a bit peaky and she thought it might do for the funeral. There was Miss Smith who burst into hysterical tears when the coffee silk peignoirs were discontinued before she could get one to match her pyjamas. There was the time I rang the bewildered woman in Australia to ask if she wanted a pink or a blue nightie, forgetting there was a time difference.

But on the whole it was a perfect family firm of the kind that cares about its employees and puts on a dinner dance every Christmas: the kind you don't think exists any more. But it does! So I hope they're all having as much fun in customer services as I used to do. I hope they're having pecan slices and sausage rolls for tea, mince pies at Christmas, and kebabs for the Saturday shift. I hope the Silly Name Competition is still running. I notice they've taken the french knickers out of the catalogue. It's probably for the best. And if I ever get a windfall, I might be tempted to buy a nightie. I always found the high necked long sleeve ones strangely alluring in an Amish kind of way ...

Friday, 26 April 2013

I am a Collector

My dad collects toby jugs. I don't know if you have toby jugs in non-UK countries (you lucky things) so if you don't this is what they are. A disembodied head with a handle. He has a toby jug in the shape of Mr Micawber which he places carefully on top of a corner cupboard, which looks even worse because then it looks as if Mr Micawber's body is in the cupboard and if you come upon it in the night it can be quite frightening. Anyway you can see that with this background I would not be keen, myself, to be starting collecting anything, especially given that our house is the size of the postage stamp and now has a pole in it, so does not need anything else. But, readers, I am weak. Sometimes even though you know something isn't good for you you cannot stop yourself, especially when you keep seeing it on ebay for under £5.
Sell me all your mud-coloured cups and send them to me in boxes! Hooray!
Yes. 60s and 70s ceramics. I just love them. I love the graphic patterns. I seem to have gone slightly down the brown route with these the beginning of my haul, but I promise you I shall be branching out into brighter colours. I am going to have a collection of teacups and mugs and put them on my shelf and then I can give people tea from quirky eclectic drinking vessels when they come round. Partner would call this 'twee and affected' so he will not be getting any tea from my eclectic vessels. Nor any biscuits.
Handpainted swirls. Do you get that in John Lewis? Probably
These teacups are Denby Arabesque. Denby Arabesque is my top favourite. I have an Arabesque jug too which sits behind the record player in a delightfully retro fashion. The vase at the back in the first picture is also Denby although I do not know what pattern or indeed if it has a name at all.
Luckily the sun shone just as I was taking the photograph otherwise we would all have been overwhelmed by the brownness of this post. But look! A bit of turquoise!
This teacup is Hornsea Pottery, Bronte, which was designed by John Clappison who was apparently some big name in questionable 70s ceramics. Doesn't this pattern just say the 70s to you, though? Don't you want to sit drinking coffee from it while digesting a nut roast, wearing a kaftan and discussing whether heterosexual sex is by definition oppressive to women? (actually, I have got a vintage kaftan, and you would be surprised how often I end up having discussions about sexual politics. Welcome to my home and life, stereotypical 70s pottery!)

Anyway there we are. Do you know what I am stalking now on ebay? Meakin. And I also have my eye on a bit of Elizabethan Chelsea. We have not even done my Fat Lava interests but I will inflict that upon you another time.

Things I like: cats, poles, Denby. Does that make me a rounded character? I think it must do. (Almost...)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A story with a moral

I am failing at Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. I am sorry. However just popping up because today an event happened to me which can be made into a Story With A Moral which is worthy of Pinterest so I am sharing it.

I was walking home from work down the street near our house with a ridiculously large number of cats, the bad black cat, Siamese-But-Striped, the cat with the bushy tail who stares, other black cat, nervous tabby grey, lots of cats. (This is not about cats. I'm just remarking). Anyway because it was practically the first sunny day this year I was wearing something different. I was wearing my brown jacket (ebay), grey skirt (Secret Lentil), green cardigan (factory shop), Boden biker boots (ebay), and various printed Uniqlo items whereas previously I have been wearing my camel duffel, bright blue Ugg boots bought for me by mum, and with my Ipod in my ears, shivering and looking a bit miserable. I was walking along when a woman on a bike who I did not think I had seen before came round the corner towards me and I moved to the side. As she came up to me she beamed at me and said, 'but no bright blue boots today! And I love those boots! They are my favourites!' and then she beamed again. I smiled too and said thank you and we both went on our ways.

I do not need to spell out the moral of this but I will do anyway because I am pedantic and literal. I did not remember ever seeing that nice woman before and yet she had been watching me and admiring my boots! So the moral is, you do not know when you are brightening up someone's day. You just do not know. Even when you are wandering along looking like Paddington on Valium with Dolly Parton in your ears you may be cheering someone up. Is that a cheering thought? It is a cheering thought if it is a nice smiley woman on a bike. Not if it's a stalker.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Things I don't understand about the USA (linguistic)

I am down with the American language, I really am, or at least I try to be. I understand that pants are trousers, pantyhose are tights, fanny is something quite different, a jumper isn't a jumper but some kind of bizarre pinafore, all of these things. Moreover I know that you cannot let your cat out lest it is eaten by a coyote, there are not as many pavements as in the UK, and you can have your post collected by putting it in your own individual postbox and not going to the post office or a red postbox (I find that very odd),

I can crochet in American and I understand that a double crochet is a treble. I can even bake in American because I have little cups which I bought from Lakeland Plastics, even though I find it an incomprehensible system because the flour goes everywhere whereas if you use scales you can just pour everything in the same bowl and a cake appears eventually.
I am crocheting this in American. I am bilingual
However there is one thing I do not understand and I would like someone to explain it to me because whenever someone says it I think they are just wrong and I want to tell them, and, as we all know, that way misery lies.

When you are trying to convey that you do not care about something/ someone, in Britain you would say, I could not care less. This is because, you could not care less, because you already care absolutely nothing. That is the point. You cannot care less than nothing. You cannot care a negative amount (well perhaps you can but for the purposes of this argument we need to agree that you can't. Just agree with me. Thanks).

However, when I see US people say this online, possibly about the fact that Knitpicks does not ship to Scotland or something else, sometimes they say, I could care less. I have seen enough people say it to make me think it is an actual saying and not a mistake. But, if you could care less, that means you must care more than nothing! You must care a bit! You are saying, I care at least a bit and possibly a huge amount about this thing, as my language is utterly ambiguous even while I think I am conveying disapproval, disinterest, and possibly contempt!

How does this work? Am I wrong? Is there a level of meaning I have not been appreciating? Please tell me so that I do not ever get myself into pointless linguistic arguments and annoy people on the internet any more than I already do.

And one more video quickly (I have been looking for ideas for my routine).

I love this woman's work, I think she's fabulous. There are {clears throat, gathers blog readers in cross-legged posture around self} two different schools of pole dancing, I feel, one of which focuses more on the athletic side and one of which focuses on it as a sensual dance. I think she is more of the sensual dance type (although her pole tricks are just fantastic), which is interesting. I actually think that although it is arguable anyway that pole started in strip clubs (do you know, I wonder if I feel a thesis coming on), certainly strip clubs have been part of the evolution of it, and although there are (very sensibly) moves to get it away from that and give it a wider audience (because pole does not have to have anything at all to do with stripping, any more than, say, gymnastics or ballet do), I also think it's nice to acknowledge and transform (and not reject) the work of women who do it in a different context. I do.

I feel myself moving inexorably and possibly unhelpfully into post-feminist thinking here, so I shall go down and get a muesli bar, but, I also wanted to say, what I also love about this video is the music, by Lucinda Williams. I love it! I love it so much I downloaded the album (also on ITunes obvs) and listened to it on my way to Hot Yoga which was a particularly exciting class because it overran and two people fainted. I love her voice. (Dan - google UK tour dates, see where she is this summer, think on...)

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Alpacas and cats make it better

Dan has sent me a photo of some of his neighbours to cheer me up about the beanbag. Duly cheered. Thanks Dan x,
These alpacas are arranged perfectly. Have they been choreographed?

And I have been looking at pole dancing videos on YouTube (pole coming NEXT WEEK) and a hitherto unexpected potential problem has presented itself:

This will probably be my luck. I had better perfect my cat-dragging-away-from-pole technique, because it will surely be needed...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Rallying behind the banner of the tie-dye beanbag

Well, I have been avoiding writing this post for about two years (come on, get a cup of tea and a biscuit  and settle down, you know you want to with a build up like that). But, you know, I've finally been poked a poke too far so I'm doing it, although I actually should have done it a few years ago when it might have been useful. I'm so out of the loop on this one I might as well be telling you all that fake taxidermy and moustaches are fashionable.
Sew Hip. Passionate about fabric and not paying people. It strikes me now that that photo would have been better without the carpet. You see, this is the lack of design sense that leads to tie dye beanbags
(NB those of you who are long-term blog readers, mwah love you all every single one, this is nothing to do with the Difficult Experience of last year - it's completely unrelated. I have to wait to do that one until certain people are dead, although I promise you it will be worth it, so you might need to hang on a while. I just attract bizarre things).

Anyway, this is about Sew Hip and All Craft Media, and I am doing it now because I just want to add to the general clamour that indie designers should look after their work and be treated properly. People: learn from my mistakes. This is why I make them! So you can all be happier! Otherwise it'd be depressing! ;-).

I used to have designs published sometimes in Sew Hip. I had my first couple published before the difficulties became widely publicised, and I was really pleased to have them in a magazine: I imagine a lot of contributors, particularly the inexperienced ones like me, felt the same.
The Mondrian Skirt! I was so excited to have this published that I haven't quite burned every Sew Hip I ever owned on a pyre and danced round the flames
Getting payment for them, though, was a different story, and this is where I partly blame myself. I once worked for an organisation that went into administration: I can tell you it's not much fun. It was absolutely clear as glass to me the first time I rang up KALmedia (as they were at that point) to chase an invoice, of which I had had no acknowledgment despite repeated emails/ phone calls, that they were completely financially screwed. It was just obvious: all the signs were there. No payment, no communication, no apologies, an appearance of absolute incompetence. (And I should have known). I was so irritated but, see second paragraph above, I had limited energy for chasing, and also I didn't want to add to the problems of the people who actually worked for KALmedia and did not own it, as whenever I got actual employees they were so nice and pleasant and helpful, and I knew nothing at all to suggest that it was their fault (in fact I thought it probably wasn't. I imagine I was right). Anyway at that point, what I should have done was blog (in a non-prurient way) to warn others and walk away, cutting my losses (because I did have actual losses - I paid postage to send samples, which were never returned, I paid for materials to make the samples) - but, I wanted to be nice. I have been in that position, through no fault of my own. I felt sorry for the employees. I didn't want to add to their problems. So I kept my mouth shut and tried to be professional. It got me nowhere. I was just completely ignored.

At that point Sew Hip got a new editor who I had worked with in the past (she had edited Sewing World) and who I knew to be extremely professional. I told her about my difficulties with payment, I believe she intervened (I think she had this radical expectation that freelancers with purchase orders ought to be actually paid...), and payment from Kerrie duly appeared (with no note, remittance advice, apology, anything: however - payment!!!). I agreed to provide a few more projects. The new editor soon resigned, because of the issues, which at that point became widely publicised: after that, I will be honest, I am not sure I even bothered invoicing any more: I chalked it down to experience. I don't advise anyone ever to do that: it was stupid, and it was defeatist (always invoice the buggers! Make them pay!): but, the energy I knew, given my past experiences, it would take, at a time when I was being forced to put all my energy into something unrelated but all-consuming and soul-sucking, just wasn't expendable. I hadn't got it in me. I hadn't, and I knew at that point that I did not have a snowflake's chance in hell of actually getting any money. I felt, frankly, that I had been utterly scammed (not in any way by the editor, who was helpful and professional throughout and beyond, and who I don't actually think got paid either: by All Craft Media), and I just moved on. I knew they went into administration and I thought, what an idiot I have been because I could see what was happening and then I made more stuff. More stuff! Including the infamous Tie Dye Beanbag.
Some people have a breakdown and drink. I tie dyed and took up pole dancing. It was great but now there are some things I can't escape from. Actually do you know what I'm doing ATM that we may chat about in future posts? Pole choreography. I did my floor work in the lounge while the news was on last night and Partner was speechless. In a bad way
So now we come to A Poke Too Far. A kind person contacted me to let me know that not only had I been initially scammed, I had also been Zombie Scammed: Kerrie Allmann appears to have sold the rights to one of my designs (along with the designs of other people) - the Tie Dye Beanbag, which appears in one of the last issues of Sew Hip and which, let me be entirely honest, is perhaps not the achievement I want following me to my grave - to Igloo Books, where it now appears, without my permission having been given, in a book about sewing. I have been talking to Igloo Books, who are perfectly friendly and responsive and who, as far as I am aware, did not know that Kerrie had not been given permission by designers to sell the designs. I know absolutely nothing to suggest that Igloo have acted unethically - I don't think they knew. But, the fact remains that insult has been added to injury: my design is in a book without my consent: I wasn't asked: money was made from me by someone with whom I had not, shall we say, enjoyed my dealings. I am not sure that a tie-dye beanbag is the hill to die on: however, I am also not sure it isn't.

I am sad that what started off as a nice magazine ended as it did: I feel annoyed that I lost the fabric that went into the samples, only one of which was ever returned (by the new editor, to whom, thanks. It's a double pointed needle case: if anyone wants it, leave me a comment! It's quite nice. Neutralise its karma): I feel stupid that I didn't deal with it all more energetically: and now I will be haunted by a big floppy tie-dye beanbag forever. So I'm sharing my story (my name is Susie and I'm and All Craft Media victim. Hello, Susie), to say: People! whether you're a new designer, a hobby designer, a designer who lives solely on your freelance earnings, whatever you are and at what level, value your work. Don't ever be grateful that someone's publishing you: don't be shy about asking for agreed payment: don't be shy about negotiating terms. I was a sitting duck: don't you be one! (And be careful what you tie dye. It might follow you forever...)!

(I'm sitting here wearing ASOS tie dye leggings. I never learn).

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

I made a shawl

So, I posted a bit ago about how I'm in a bit of a rut, knitting-wise. And what's the solution to a knitting rut?
Sekku. Thick-thin. Spun from special, mean, rough sheep
Crochet, obvs, lol etc.

I would have left the brown out of this colourway if it had been me
Partner loves shawls (!) and is fascinated by this and its 'nice subtle colours', but then Partner is so colourblind he thinks dogs are green, so I don't necessarily engage. What I think is this: sod the colours, because, Noro Sekku is even worse being crocheted than it is being knitted. Worse! Let me emphasise that for you! I had to untangle myself every few stitches with this because the Sekku kept winding back on itself and knotting. It was awful. I mean, it was first-world-problem awful rather than actually awful, but it was still irritating.
No, I don't know why I decided just to stick it on top of the noro scarf. Look how cool and casual I am! Look how much noro of various weights I can process without stabbing people!
This is the pattern on Ravelry. I have the capacity for following crochet patterns of a disgruntled and slightly thick sealion with attention span issues, and I can promise you that even if you are the same, you will be able to follow this one. I say that to you because you may be thinking, why pay for a pattern which is just half a granny square with a scalloped border, and I can understand that point of view. However, this pattern is clearly written, I am happy with it, and look, I managed to produce something and will probably use the pattern again. I'm crocheting something else now. You see, I'm on a roll. Possibly. I won't actually get excited until I've finished it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Tell me this wasn't a mistake

But I've just ordered my very own pole for at home. It'll be fine! We can put it in the kitchen! You can take them down quickly!

{Eeeeeek flail}

Yarn Bombing, reprise

After my previous post about yarn bombing, I just wanted to do another post and show you because thrillingly some more has sprung up! Near my house!
It's the farm shop where I buy my potatoes! £1 a bag! And if you walk just to the side of the Waterman it brings you to the river
Vanessa left me a comment on my previous post which brought up the possibility of yarn bombing not being quite so attractive when it had been there for a while and been rained on etc, which I think we can all see the truth in. So, as this particular yarn bomb is quite close by, I shall probably end up keeping an eye on it by default, and I shall let you know if in three months' time I have quite changed my opinion. I must say, the one thing I do worry about with yarn bombing is whether it is good for trees to be covered in yarn. Does it interfere with photosynthesis? Does it stop them growing? I do not have GCSE biology and I cannot tell.
I can't tell if that's a bit of bias stocking stitch at the top there
In the meantime, however, valid concerns aside, I thought it cheered up a relatively unglamorous area of Cambridge. Granny squares on trees! (Note the interesting use of what appears to be a bin liner...)
Hmm, shall we go to the Cambridge Classical Concert Series or Spot's Birthday Party?
Knitted stripes round the council noticeboard! I particularly like how you can see the nice bright red tree in the background.

I walked a friend of mine past these trees to show them to him and he said he had already walked past them once on his way to meet me and had never even noticed them. He pretended he could tell the difference between crochet and knitting (because this yarn bombing installation cleverly combines the two and I wished to use it as a teaching tool), but I think that was just to get me to be quiet as it was very cold and he wanted to get to the car. However, this has raised with me the prospect of there being people in this world who wander about not noticing the strange things you notice if you have a blog and take a camera with you habitually (or, if you do not have a blog but just walk about observing as I do sometimes).
Dustbin art! We sometimes have impromptu dustbin art in Cambridge. It is because our dustbins are so huge. I must start documenting
Perhaps these people do not notice things like sudden random dustbin-based art projects outside the local Catholic Church. What a world they must live in.
When walking past a fence be sure to slink your tail round it seductively. Pussycats: every move straight from burlesque
Perhaps they do not notice when they are accompanied part of the way into town by a creature affecting careful nonchalance.
The thing is, how do they know this cat was not just walking along? In a sense I find them all the time! Should I be making posters??
Perhaps they do not notice strange homemade notices in bus shelters which speak poignantly of a world of inconvenience. No-one is going to claim that cat, notice writer, I am sorry. It is yours now...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Nice Stuff on Sunday

So, having bothered you all yesterday with my incipient communist leanings which may or may not be hypocritical in a woman with a veg box and a yoga studio membership, today I just wanted to show you a couple of really nice shops I found on etsy while I was poking about looking for Stuff. (I think I started off doing Nice Stuff on Monday: I've moved it to Sunday. Minutiae like this only bothers me and not you, I do understand).
Gnomes lavender bag! Gnomes are the best! I doubt gnomes smell of lavender but here they do!
The first one is Ceridwen Hazelchild designs - you can look at her etsy shop here, her facebook, her twitter, and her blog.
Typewriter illustration pocket mirror. Never go anywhere with lipstick on your teeth
She does bags and various accessories printed with the most beautiful illustrations. I do think the word vintage is overused, but I'm going to use it ;-). They have a kind of quiet, detailed, careful, vintage-y vibe. They just look very British to me, I don't know if you get that feeling.
Hedgehog tote bag, owls and foxes and badgers also available. Let me tell you about our wildlife: three black squirrels and a bad ginger cat from a few doors down
I particularly love the wildlife illustrations. Aren't they pretty? Anyway do have a look at her shop because she has some really lovely things and if you are like me you always need another cloth tote bag for when you are buying your lentils at the local Wholefood Co-operative.

I also wanted to show you Designed By Jane, who makes really, really beautiful embroidered felt pieces (and also if you look at her etsy at the moment she has some on sale).
Marrakech felt brooch
I came across her work on flickr while I was thinking about colour combinations for a blanket I may or many not crochet in the future. After the one I'm finishing at the moment (which I'll show you at some point!) I'm going to try and get away from the 'throw all the colours into the middle of the room and use whichever one gets entangled round your crochet hook first' kind of method which I use currently.
Tree brooch with freeform embroidery

I love the geometric, abstract nature designs
Scandinavian bird brooch
And I love this little bird and his Scandinavian design. I just think these are all really pretty.

I have a real thing about jewellery made from non-traditional materials and I think the idea of felt brooches is great. Also I think the whole thing reminds me of Fuzzy Felts, but, Fuzzy Felts reinvented in a marvellously sophisticated way. So go and have a look at Jane's shop, because she really has many more things (including owls! I love owls despite Alan Partridge), and her blog, and be inspired.


One more thing very quickly - guess what it is in a fortnight hey hey hey?

It's the fourth annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! (starting on 22nd April), and if you have a look at the blog of the lovely Eskimimi you'll be able to see a list of topics etc and get planning. You don't have to do all the days (I suspect I won't manage all of them, indeed I'm slightly nervous of the thought of an infographic) but just see if any of them grab you. It'll be fun! I'm glad to be able to participate as I didn't have the time last year.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

I absolutely promise this is the last time

Because I've even got proper things to post about. I photographed yarn bombing! I crocheted bunting! I made a shawl and some pendants and half a decoupaged spider! I'm just doing this one more pin. (Click through to the blog and read the comments. Go on, you know you want to ;-) ).

Right. Now, the thing is, I think it's fair to say that the author of that blog is probably going to heaven whereas I most certainly am not. However, the thought of giving someone who is homeless a 'blessing bag' with deodorant and no mouthwash in case they manage to get pissed on it, and a bible with a 'message of hope' (to be fair, the bible idea is in the comments, not the blog post) rubs me up so far the wrong way I pretty much come out on the other side, grinding my teeth. I promise you that this isn't a rant against Christians, of whom, in real life, I have met precisely zero who would proselytise in such a crass and condescending way, as opposed to many many many who do genuine and sensitive good: besides, I'm religious (I know you can't tell): I believe in God. Not in the form the people in those comments do, admittedly. But she doesn't mind ;-).

I've been trying to think about why I'm having such a negative reaction to someone who is trying to do a kind thing - and a kind thing which might be appreciated by most of the people she does it to. I don't know.

Anyway, I've considered, and I think this is why: do you know what separates someone who is homeless from someone who is, well, me or you? Nothing. Literally, nothing. I can say to you quite honestly that there have been many times in my life when I have not been entirely self-supporting, when I have been on a bit of a self-destructive streak, and when pulling myself up by my bootstraps was not an option, and when if my situation had been different, things might have been worse for me. Really, though, can anyone say any different? The reason I'm sitting here in a warm house blogging on a new Apple Mac, and not on the steps at Jimmy's Night Shelter isn't because I'm a better person. It's because of a number of things, I imagine, but it probably basically comes down to background, privilege (I mean this in quite a wide sense but still, privilege), social support and safety nets. Are any of those to my credit? I don't think they are. Do you?

You know what you could do if you meet a homeless person who asks you for money, instead of giving them a bag of what you think they need and a bloody Bible? (or a bloody any other religious text?) You could do this:

  1. If you don't want to give them any money, you could look them in the eye, smile, and say, sorry, no.
  2. You could give them some money. They might spend it on alcohol or drugs, or they might not. You might feel they should have the choice, like you do. I was a bit nervous yesterday lunchtime, so I downed a glass of wine quite quickly, and cheered up. What makes that an acceptable choice, however, is that it was a glass of Pinot Grigio with friends in Pizza Express, rather than a can of Special Brew on a bench.
  3. You could carry deodorant etc about in a ziplock baggie and you could offer them the choice of that or a fiver, or whatever, and see what they prefer.
  4. You could decide your money is more effective given to a local homeless shelter, in which case, feel free to go to number one.

I don't mean to do depressing ranting blog posts, really I don't. Charity, though: it's complicated. It just is. As I get older and more cynical the less I believe in charity at all, and the more I think that we're just all the same, and that if I have more for the moment I should help out, if you have more at another time then it's your turn. And when it's my turn to be helped, please don't bring me deodorant unless I ask for deodorant. I might: I don't know. But give me cash so I can choose. Or come and share a bottle of Pinot with me. We can drink it together.

I'm going straight to hell, aren't I? :-(

Edited to add, I just wanted to leave a link to an excellent Cambridge magazine produced by homeless people, Flack - here is a link to the back issues, which you can read online. The point of it is (or one of the points of it is) to break down barriers between homeless and not-homeless people. I think it's really interesting and I buy it doggedly from the local Wholefood Co-operative. Going by one of the articles in the March issue what we should be really putting in blessing bags is condoms and tampax...

Friday, 5 April 2013

How can you possibly feel like this about a bookcase?

Honestly. Like a fool (see posts passim re: Home Improvements, Do Not Do It,) I am engaging with Home Improvements again, which is currently involving looking for bookcases on Amazon because we appear to have a small amount of wall that is not Utterly Bookcased To Capacity. Look at the review at the top. I bet this person finished writing this review and then went straight away and pinned something to Pinterest ('don't throw yourself away ladies on someone who wants you to be a size zero and stops tickling you when you tell him to!!! - Bertrand Russell').

I mean, I can think of things I might have difficulty forgiving, but a bookcase looking slightly different isn't one of them. Frankly, I don't care what bookcases look like any more, I don't. They can be fuschia pink. They can be spray painted with rude words. They can be flocked. I don't care. All I care about is, is it the right size to fit next to the fireplace so that the maximum possible amount of space is used, can it be assembled by a reluctant person with an electronic screwdriver and a cup of strong coffee, and will it hold enough of Partner's ridiculously huge and heavy books that we do not look mad when people come round. This is all I care about. Actually what I might do is, I might ring a carpenter to come and give us an estimate for shelves. I mean, I'm ashamed to be doing that when I read blogs like that of Rachel who would not need to do so but yes. I am working on accepting my limitations...